The term “pumpkin patch” is deceptive. Around fall, many of these so-called patches start to flank highways across the region with pumpkins being only one aspect of the scene. Petting zoos, pony rides, pie eating contests and those large wooden farmer/pig/scarecrow cutouts you and your loved ones stick your heads through number among the attractions visitors often come across. But sometimes there are mazes, too.
Who doesn’t love a good maze? In Dubai, the world’s largest indoor theme park features a maze. Known for their gardens, the United Kingdom boasts many hedge mazes. And in the United States our largest and most famous mazes are comprised of the crop that takes up four percent of our country: corn (although hay mazes are popular as well). A relatively new invention, the first cornfield maze (or maize maze) was created in 1993 by Don Frantz and since its inception corn mazes have spread like, well, corn.
The Bay Area has a few mazes of its own, and here are some to check out when the pumpkin patches spring up again.
Arata’s Pumpkin Farm
Open for the season as of Sept. 4, this pumpkin farm is located off Highway One in Half Moon Bay. The Arata family has been in the pumpkin business since 1932 making the farm the oldest of its kind in San Mateo County, though since then they have definitely diversified their crops. There is a large corn field on the grounds, but return visitors know it’s all about the hay maze here. This year’s 2-acre minotaur labyrinth hay maze promises to challenge guests both intellectually and physically — will you be up for it? Admission to the maze costs $10 for adults and $8 for kids under 9. Children 3 and under are free.
Petaluma Pumpkin Patch
The business of agriculture isn't easy, so in order to stay in the game farmer Jim Groverman got creative. To help bring in revenue Groverman and his wife Cindy have been operating the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch and Amazing Corn Maze, an annual spectacle of family fun they call "agro-tainment" for the past 20 years. Located off Highway 101, the patch opens to the public on Sept. 30 and closes the day after Halloween. Admission for the 4-acre corn maze costs free for kids 5 and under, and $6 for people 6 and older. Friday and Saturday evenings feature an opportunity to traverse the maze at night for some added mystery for just $9.
Cool Patch Pumpkins
The Guinness World Records title holder for largest corn maze is a day trip away in Dixon. Brothers Matt and Mark Cooley first nabbed the award back in 2007 and won again recently in 2014 with a 63-acre maze — 20 acres larger than their last winner. The Cool Patch Pumpkins maze returns this year on Sept. 17 and will stay open, along with the pumpkin patch, until Nov. 1. Be sure to stop at one of the elevated viewing platforms if you really get lost or to simply gauge your progress. The Cooleys also recommend dressing in layers and bringing a flashlight if you plan on going into at maze at night. The cost of admission is $15, kids under 5 get in for free.
Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch
Can't decide between corn and hay mazes? At this 20-acre farm you don't have to choose. This year's offerings at the Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch include 8-acres of pumpkins, a 7-acre corn maze complete with a long and short course, a hay maze, petting zoo, face painting and lots of other family friendly activities. Starting on Sept. 30, $2 general admission grants guests access to a hay bale pyramid and the hay maze, while the $8 super ticket includes general features plus petting zoo and bounce house entry. $18 equals all-access: general and super items, the corn maze, a hay ride ticket and more.